By now I think the neighbours are sick of my early morning singing in a last-ditch attempt to shake some rain from the sky. This month we’ve not seen a drop and I’m beginning to worry not only for the eardrums of those around me, but for the crops too.
The lack of rain is certainly apparent when driving around the country, with Spring cereals racing through growth stages thanks to the recent warm weather. But at what cost? At home, the crops are holding up thanks to the retained moisture at drilling and the good rooting of strip tilled crops. I do however fear for the impact the minimal rainfall will have on yield and particularly on the Wheat this year.
According to the Met office, we have only received 20% of our 30 year average rainfall this May and June, which is frightening considering May has been one of the hottest on record.
Above all though, I remain positive. The drilling environment created by the Pro-Til meant that all of the crops were drilled into moisture thanks to selective tillage and a thatch of previous crop residue. I find that retaining last year’s trash is a key part to maintaining soil moisture levels and something not all drills can cope with. The staggered layout of the Pro-Til allows for high trash clearance and means I can drill into thick cover crops or high amounts of straw without a problem.
The way the Soya looks is been testament to drilling into moisture and which is holding its own despite the lack of rain since it was seeded. Recovering from its persistent attack from Pigeons and Hares I am pleased with the crop as a whole. This month it received its fungicide treatment Azoxystar which has recently been awarded and EAMU for preventing Sclerotinia and an application of manganese. The hot weather has meant spraying in the early morning was necessary to minimise the risk of scorching to the plants.
Like everything on the farm, the Soya could do with a drink – it hasn’t rained since drilling and showing no real signs of anything significant in the forecast over the next few weeks. Thankfully, the seed went into a moist seedbed achieved by minimal cultivation and retained surface residue which has helped the crop push on in testing conditions.
The Winter Wheat across the farm is also holding up well in the unusually warm conditions, and this makes me grateful that we no longer plough before drilling. Unnecessary cultivations would have seriously reduced reserve moisture in the soil and by now the crop would have been struggling.
This month we finished the spray program with the T3 and in fear of scorching the crop it was another case of early morning and late evening applications. This definitely isn’t a hardship in my opinion and makes the most of the best time of the day.
The OSR has been put to bed and left to its own devices in June, and is now starting to turn very quickly in the sunshine. One thing I noticed is that the finches are taking a keen interest in the pods this year and have been seen pulling them apart in an attempt, I assume, to find insects.
Not all fields have been affected and mostly in localised patches. Hopefully this won’t make much difference in the grand scheme of things but it’s something I have never seen in recent years and an interesting observation nonetheless.
Since being drilled in late May, the Maize is going from strength to strength. Along with seedbed fertiliser at drilling we shortly followed up with a top dressing of NPK. We were conscious to have this done before the prills find their way into the unfurling. The Hares have been causing some damage to the leaves, but I feel the crop is getting away and we’re past the point of any major damage.
The most interesting news of all this month has been the arrival of Ben, my new Farm Manager. Ben joined us in June in a bid to take over the reins of the farm, giving me more time to focus on the important things in life, like riding my bike and enjoying a quieter pace, or not! I will be checking in now and then but I know I am leaving the operation in good hands and I’m excited to see what fresh thinking he brings to the farm. Watch this space for Ben’s thoughts on the farm and his plans for the future.